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Obama’s Pick for Labor Chief Known as Farmworker Champion

December 22, 2008

California labor leaders and environmental groups are applauding President-elect Barack Obama's choice for labor secretary as good for the economy and good for the environment. California Representative Hilda Solis has said her goal is to expand the reach and power of unions in America.

Oliver Bernstein, spokesman for the Sierra Club, says Representative Solis was one of the first people in the House of Representative to promote the idea of "green" jobs. He says she has also been a champion for California's farm laborers.

"Representative Solis has always supported protections for workers, particularly from hazardous substances, from pesticides, and I know that as Secretary of Labor she will continue that strength."

According to Bernstein, the selection of Solis could also position California at the forefront of the green economic recovery plan promoted by the incoming Obama administration.

Steve Smith, director of communications for the California Labor Federation, says, as a state legislator, Solis fought hard to increase the state minimum wage and has always been a warrior for working families.

"As we all know in this economy, with California's unemployment rate above eight percent, it is critical that we have a leader of her stature fighting for California jobs and for jobs across the country."

Business groups remain cautious about Solis' selection, and some criticize her support of the Employee Free Choice Act -- a bill that would eliminate a secret ballot election and allow workers to organize if a majority turned in authorization cards.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA